Coaching Supervisor

"A chance to explore and reflect on your work and your development". 
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What is supervision?
What are the benefits?
What buyers of coaching say
A supervision model
What happens in a supervision session?
Forecasts for the growth in supervision
Karen's interview: on MP3

What is supervision?

Supervision is a series of conversations which provide a space for the coach to reflect on the work they are doing with their clients so they can improve the quality of their coaching. Supervision also supporting the continued learning and development of the coach.

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Benefits of Supervision

Supervision is well established in many ‘people professions’ such as psychology and counselling – and is now becoming well established in the newer discipline of coaching. There are benefits for the coach and the buyers of coaching.

Benefits for the coach:

  • All coaches, no matter how experienced, have issues they don’t see, communication they haven’t heard and challenges they’re not communicating. Consequently, high-quality coaching can’t be maintained by a coach acting in isolation. Regular reflection and exploration of the coaches’ work leads to them understanding their clients better, become more aware of their own responses to their clients, and enables them to understand the dynamics of client-coach interaction.
  • To remain effective, coaches need to ensure they avoid over-identifying with their clients or defending against being further affected.   
  • Supervision facilitates sustaining best practice over time – ensuring that staleness and burnout are avoided
  • Being in supervision supports the confidence of the supervisee, enabling them to make the effective interventions that they wouldn’t otherwise have the courage to make
  • The process adds to the supervisee’s credentials and professionalism: “Not only do I have all these qualifications and experience – but also I am in regular supervision”
  • Supervision is a  powerful and effective way of addressing a coaches own personal development: whilst the coach is working on client challenges, he/she is working on his/her own parallel challenges without bringing in defences as the focus is on the client and not on the coach

Benefits for the organisation:

Where the organisation sponsors supervision, supervision minimises the risk of unprofessional practise,  ensures that the organisation’s standards are maintained and the boundaries of the coach’s competence aren’t overstepped.

Supervision is also a way to ensure the coaching is aligned with organisational objectives.

By selecting supervised coaches, organisations ensure their coaches operate at the highest possible standards.

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What buyers of coaching say about supervision:

Shaun Lincoln, Programme Director, Coaching and Mentoring, at the Centre for Excellence in Leadership says: "I would expect coaches to have supervision as part of their continuous professional development and I wouldn't employ a coach who didn't have supervision

Shaun is not alone. There are many other suppliers and buyers of coaching who agree.

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Supervision Models

There are a number of supervision models that work well. The below is the 7-eyed model developed by Peter Hawkins which is a useful frame work for supervision conversations. The model explains how the supervisor can focus on supervision from multiple perspectives.

1.Focus on the client and how they present. This mode focuses on what actually happened in the sessions with clients, how they presented themselves, what they chose to discuss and how this relates to previous sessions. The aim of this mode is to help the coach pay attention to their clients, their clients’ choices and the connections between various aspects of their clients’ situation.

2. Exploration of the strategies and interventions used by the coach. This mode focuses on the strategies and interventions used by the coach, including which ones, when and why they were used. This may help in developing alternative strategies and interventions, as well as discussing potential consequences. The aim of this mode is to increase the strategies and interventions available to the coach.

3. Exploration of the relationship between the client and the coach. This mode focuses on what is happening in the relationships between the coach and their clients. The aim of this mode is to help the coach gain a greater insight and understanding of the dynamics of their relationships with their clients.

4. Focus on the coach. This mode focuses on how the coach is affected by their work with their clients, both consciously and subconsciously, and how they deal with this. This includes both the coach’s well being and their development. The aim of this mode is to increase the capacity of the coach to engage with their clients and to more effectively handle their responses.

5. Focus on the supervisory relationship. This mode focuses on what is happening in the relationship between the supervisor and the coach. The aims of this mode are to ensure that the supervisor/coach relationship is working well and to explore how the coach/clients relationships may be playing out or paralleling in the supervisor/ coach relationship.

6. The supervisor focusing on their own process. This mode is where the supervisor pays attention to what they are experiencing in the supervision sessions. The aim of this mode is for the supervisor to use their responses to provide another source of information to the coach.

7. Focus on the wider context in which the work happens. This mode takes into consideration the wider context in which the work happens, including the context of the clients, the context of the coach’s profession, the context of the coach/clients and supervisor/coach relationships and the wider world of the coach and supervisor. The aim is to understand and pay attention to the wider context as part of the supervision. 

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What happens in a supervision session?

Broadly speaking, each session centres around the supervisee’s preferred outcome and agreed contract for the session, or alternatively, it can be expansive and enlightening simply to “allow what needs to arise to arise”.

In the same way, that there is no such thing as a typical coaching session, there is no such thing as a typical supervision session. The below account of part of a supervision session, simply shines a light on the supervision process and the learnings for the supervisee and for myself as the supervisor. This session is based on a session I did with one of my supervisees (with key details changed to preserve confidentiality).

“ My supervisee began by sharing how well everything is going with her clients – and how she coaches them from a place of them already realising their potential (an interesting slant on unconditional positive regard of Carl Rogers).

 She shared a client challenge: an unusual situation whereby, unusually for her, she couldn’t see the client’s potential (describing him as autocratic, dysfunctional, shut down – yet she was attracted to him – which we can describe as positive counter-transference)

I have had the experience of finding myself attracted to a client,  which I chose to share with my supervisee at the end of the session – which worked as this reassured her, brought the collegiate relationship to the fore.   This brought in the sixth eye – my own experience.

Working with the third eye, the relationship between supervisee and her clients was key. We explored what she wanted to do about the attraction. (At this point I feel fortunate that I am naturally neutral as opposed to judgemental about it).  She expressed concerns for the man’s family and for her professionalism, but not for her own marriage. We explored how she could let go of the attraction and rekindle her own marriage (by looking at what this client had shown her about what needs of hers needed to be expressed in her marriage –  and we draw on the work of Chuck Spezzano)

The session was particularly effective: My supervisee told me that I am a brilliant supervisor, incisive, sensitive, that I cut to the heart and that she loves the way I supervise. On much later reflection, I do wonder if this positive feedback is in part coming from a need to please me: as this need to please is something that has come up with her before. I am reminded of my client’s strong need to please that she has explored with me – in previous sessions. This something for me to bring up either in the next session or alternatively when/if it arises again.

By the next session, the supervisee has cleared her feelings about her client, has reignited her marriage, and has regained her capacity to see the potential in her client…

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What are the forecasts about the growth of supervision in coaching?

As coaching grows in numbers and professional status, supervision is likely to be sought after by more and more coaches. We don’t yet know, but there may come a time when it is mandatory, in much the same way that being in supervision is mandatory for most  professional counsellors.

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Everything you want to know about supervision on MP3.

I was recently interviewed on the subject of supervision, and on researching this subject further for the interview, I discovered the results of a CIPD survey on supervision. Amongst many interesting findings, there are two that I would like to pull out:

  • Supervision has evolved from a “must do” requirement: Coaches are now saying that they really look forward to their supervision: and do it because they want not, not because they have been told to.
  • Almost 90% coaches surveyed believed in supervision, but only 44% have it: often because they see it as “too expensive”.

In the interview, I answer the following questions:
What is supervision?
What sort of image does the name “supervision” imply?
Why is supervision important?
How common is supervision in coaching?
What are the benefits?
What is good practise in supervision?
What got you into supervision?
Who is most suited to being in supervision?
What are the reasons that coaches are not automatically choosing to be in supervision in the same way that counsellors opt for supervision?
What are the reasons that those who choose to be in supervision do so?
Do you use a model in supervision.? Can you tell me how it works?
Taking into account, supervisee confidentiality, can you give an example of a part of a supervision session you have provided?
What are the reasons you are so passionate about supervision?
What are the forecasts about the growth of supervision in coaching?
What does it usually cost?

You can listen to the full interview on MP3 by clicking here.

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